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Christmas rail strikes will be ‘devastating’ warn hospitality chiefs

Pubs and other hospitality firms have said a series of rail strikes before Christmas will have a “devastating” impact for struggling firms.

More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7, it was announced on Tuesday.

Union general secretary Mick Lynch apologised to the public for the inconvenience but urged them to “to direct your anger and frustration at the Government and railway employers”.

Firms and industry groups have called for an urgent resolution to the proposed strikes, which would take place on key days for Christmas celebrations.

Sarah Willingham, CEO of 36-strong bar group Nightcap, said “the Government should not allow this to happen” after a series of heavily disrupted Christmases for the sector.

“I am absolutely appalled that this is allowed to happen during the busiest week of the year for both hospitality and retail,” she said.

“Hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on Christmas trade and will be out at risk, not to mention our customers all looking forward to finally spending a Christmas together out in their favourite venues.

“The macro impact is huge. The impact on people’s mental health is immeasurable.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive for the UKHospitality trade body, was also frustrated by the announcement.

She said: “Continued rail strikes have had a huge impact on our hospitality sector; preventing staff from making it into work and disrupting consumers’ plans meaning a huge drop in sales for venues across the sector.

“Further strikes during the busiest time of the year for hospitality will be devastating, just as everyone was anticipating an uninterrupted Christmas period for the first time in three years.

“I’d encourage all parties to come together to find a resolution that can avoid further strikes and the disruption they cause both businesses and the public.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “News of these rail strikes in the weeks leading up to Christmas will hit pubs in town and city centres hard.

“The week of the strikes is usually the busiest in the year for our industry, but instead of supporting pubs, customers will be cancelling bookings and staying home, whilst staffing shortages will be exacerbated by a lack of transport options for employees.

“Our industry desperately needs this Christmas boost, we urgently need a resolution to reinstate train services and ensure that customers and staff can travel easily and confidently, or the impact on trade will be catastrophic.”